Every time I facilitate a training session I give a little insight into my background and my life, as any good trainer should. So, I let them know that I am a better public speaker than interpersonal communicator, not that I’m bad at speaking to a person one-on-one, but that I get more practice speaking to larger groups.
Effectively conveying my message and transferring my knowledge and emotion in a group setting does not make me nervous like it used to because I practice often. Professionally, I live for the moment when I see the learning light turn on in a participant’s head. When their eyebrows raise, eyes brighten and lips curl down. You know that face when somebody thinks, “Hmm, that makes a lot of sense.” They see my passion when I operate in that space.
Then after a session, inevitably somebody approaches me to tell me that I’m lying about being shy. Then I smile, shrug, and maybe stumble over a word or two because… I’m shy.
Talking to individuals that I don’t know one-on-one still makes me nervous, but I know how to overcome that now. I’m no longer of the mindset that if I wasn’t born with something it wasn’t meant to be, and you don’t have to be either. That is called a self-limiting belief. Kill it.
I heard the quote “Where your focus goes, your energy flows,” and I had a personal eyebrow raising moment.
Success may be reserved for the gifted, but the gritty invite themselves to dinner, and nobody can make them leave.
I am becoming a better trainer because I want to be better, and I will be a successful one-on-one communicator. Here are some steps I took for public speaking that I will apply to my interpersonal communication journey, and I think these will work for whatever gap you want to overcome, as well.
- I admitted I had a problem
Simple right, but if you’re like a lot of people, this might be your biggest problem: Not knowing you have a problem. Most people know they have a problem, but to earnestly say – “My problem is _____, and I need to fix it” – is paramount. Let’s just put it on the table and stop pretending.
- I figured out the real problem
After I admitted I had a problem, I did some additional soul searching to find out if the problem I stated is the real issue. It’s one thing to say that I am not a good public speaker, but to dig deeper – I asked myself, Why? Because I stumble over my words. Why? Because I speak too fast. Why? Because I’m nervous. Why? Because I am afraid of being judged. Why? Because I want people to like me. Why? Because I had an issue with people making fun of me as I child because I was awkward.
I had to have this conversation with myself. Okay, you were a kid. Kids are mean growing up. You figured out your awkwardness was a strength years ago in college. So why are you still nervous? You’re right! I know.
- I wrote it down
I wrote down where I was on one side of the paper, where I wanted to be on the other, and what I needed to do to bridge the gap in the middle. It has been my experience that writing things down makes them real for me. Also, I don’t have to waste time rethinking about what the gap is over and over because I already have it on paper. Try it.
- I stopped being sensitive
Don’t get defensive about the problem when someone else calls it out. You can quickly go from a real success in admitting your problem to a false sense of victory in defending your pride in a heartbeat; and you know what, the problem still isn’t fix. If a person sees the same flaw in you that you now can admit in yourself, they might be able or are willing to help.
- I set SMART targets
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound goals. For example, I will find a mentor who is an expert in public speaking at my job by Wednesday of next week.
Notice, I didn’t only say I’m going to find a mentor because that’s not Time-bound. Or, I’m going to enlist the help of Barack Obama because that’s not Realistic. Makes your goals make sense.
- Find a mentor or, at the very least, an accountability partner
You could do it by yourself. I believe in you like you believe in you, but I think it would be easier if you find someone who has walked the path that you want to trod.
People will be willing to help because people like to talk about things they are passionate about. And people receive great satisfaction in talking about themselves, so it’s a mutually beneficial situation. If I haven’t completely sold you on the idea of a mentor, find someone who you trust to help keep you on task. Someone who knows your goals and wants to see you win! If it’s not a PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCED CREDENTIALED coach, then a colleague or friend will do.
- I Practiced
Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect – but ugly, awful, not-so-perfect practice precedes perfect practice – so get out of your comfort zone and get after it. Over and over and over and over and over and…
- I wasn’t afraid to look stupid
Stop judging yourself. Quiet that voice. It’s time to get uncomfortable. That’s your pride trying to save you from embarrassment.
Between you and me, you will be your harshest critic in whatever you do unless you are unable to self-assess (Many people are not). But assuming you are, go through the process and analyze your successes and failures as you proceed, correct and move forward. Winning is a process and losing is the same, so go back to the analysis step and ask – Why? – again. Be critical and get better.
- I did better next time
Every time won’t be your best time, but don’t worry about it. Just do better next time. That simple.
- Above, Around and After all else: Confidence
Do not defeat yourself with a self-limiting story that you made up in your mind. We do this all the time and without thinking.
“I can’t beat this.”
“I’ll never be good enough.”
“I’m too old/young.”
ALL LIES. Tell yourself an empowering story.
“How can I lose?”
“I’m going to be the best.”
“Age ain’t nothing but a number.”
Those are some steps that I took to become a better public speaker and will take again to become a better interpersonal communicator. I’ll let you know by June (Time-Bound) how that journey is going. I hope this helps you with whatever struggle(s) that you are trying to overcome. Any questions, please let me know. I want to see you win!
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